The Adams Memorial, bronze, 1885 by Augustus Saint Gaudens


The Adams Memorial is found in a large holly grove in the Rock Creek Cemetery of Washington, DC. The work was commissioned of sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens by Henry Adams, grandson of President John Quincy Adams, shortly after the suicide of his wife Marion (née Hooper) in 1885. Various titles have been proposed to express the meaning of the figure, with "Grief" being the most common today. No official title was ever attributed to the work by either Saint Gaudens or Henry Adams. Adams himself referred to the memorial as having meaning and feeling of universality and anonymity and then called it "The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding." At another time he wrote to Saint Gaudens to give him the rights to the drawings and photographs of the statue "with the understanding that there shall be no such attempt at making it intelligible to the average mind." Saint Gaudens would have deplored the use of the title "Grief", as his own son, Homer Saint Gaudens, wrote: "I am certain that my father never of his own volition stamped the monument with that absolute definition so often demanded-he meant to ask a question, not to give an answer."

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